Many callers say: I talked to (insert local TV-advertising lawyer here) and (he or she) guarantees me probation for (insert heinous crime here, such as axe-murdering your nosy neighbor). What can you do?
Don't get me wrong, hire a confident, experienced criminal defense lawyer with a solid working relationship with others involved in the criminal justice system. Your lawyer should have the skills, expertise and confidence to achieve the best possible result. But a “guarantee?” I don't think so.
Lawyers cannot ethically make guarantees. Neither can your doctor. Gall-bladder removal is a simple procedure, but your surgeon won't guarantee you'll get up from the operating table. If a lawyer communicates an unethical guarantee, check yourself for a second and consider if you want to pay your hard-earned long green to an attorney who isn't shooting straight from the get-go. Then take another second to consider whether it's smart to be represented by someone who goes all Punxsutawney Phil on you.
When confronted with this query I often say, “My crystal ball is in the shop today and if it wasn't your fee quote would be significantly higher.” Even if I've handled a case with a fact pattern like yours, and in believe me I've heard a LOT of fact patterns, a “guarantee” is an opinion about an outcome. And predictions for criminal case outcomes are just like noses, or a*sholes, everybody's got one.
Laws change, prosecutors' policies change and Judges' attitudes change. One prosecutor may pretrial divert you and another may want jail time (especially if you axe-murdered your neighbor). In Kentucky, we have 120 counties. Each county has at least two prosecutors, a county attorney and a Commonwealth attorney. Each county has at least two Judges, a District Judge and a Circuit Judge. Recommended punishment for crimes committed will wildly vary. Some Judges change daily on the outcomes they will approve.
If you elect to have your case decided by a jury, a lawyer can never predict the outcome. We've all lost cases we thought we would win and won cases that appeared to be losers. Just because your second cousin's buddy knows a guy who heard a guy who got probated on manslaughter second doesn't mean a jury won't give you 10, which is the maximum, and a lovely orange suit as a parting gift.
So be skeptical of the “guaranteed” outcome offered by a lawyer in a criminal case. It's not ethical, intelligent or professional. Hire a lawyer who will give you an educated, honest opinion on the range of outcomes possible in your case. Now excuse me, I've got to take a call. The Crystal Ball Repair Shop is on line one.